While I could write multiple posts about some of the wonderful teachers who impacted my life and shaped my thinking, helping me become the person I am today, this will be the last installment. With perhaps a few interruptions for Christmas, I want to share next about some of the students who have also impacted my teaching and enriched my life. For today, however, here are several teachers who I remember with much fondness.
Dr. North: A history professor at Cincinnati Christian University. Dr. North was a superb storyteller. He would drop these delightful stories into his three hour lectures that would make the moments fly. I still remember laughing so hard, I couldn’t take notes as he told how churches on the American frontier came to use individual Communion cups. From him, I learned the importance of story in my teaching.
Mr. T: Mr. T was my high school government teacher. Several times during that semester, Mr. T came to class drunk. One day, he staggered in, tripped over the trash can and swore, using words I didn’t think teachers were allowed to utter. I was horrified, the other students laughed at him, we all lost our respect for him. Yet, another time, he gave us a pop quiz, using an overhead projector to display the questions. Because of my vision problem, I couldn’t see the questions; however, without my asking for help, he offered to let me stay after class so I could stand close to the screen without embarrassment of having to look close in front of the others. In a day when mainstreaming was still in its early stages, I learned that attitude rather than law will bring about the most change for education for the handicapped. I also learned a huge lesson in not judging others. On the outside, he was a gruff, surely teacher with a serious problem, but deep down, he was a kind, compassionate man.
Mrs. W.: You would think Shakespeare would be an unpopular high school English elective, especially with this serious, no-nonsense teacher, yet her class was packed. I think we appreciated her high standards. On the first day of class, she announced, “You will not want to be absent in my class. If you do, you will miss out. We’re going to be covering a lot of ground each day.” So concerned that I not miss out on a single day, I even turned down attending a scholarship awards luncheon, which I learned later was not a smart idea. Mrs. W. brought Shakespeare to life. That year was the 500th year anniversary of his birth, so we had a birthday party for Shakespeare, complete with an English menu and Shakespeare recitations. I recited Portia’s speech from “The Merchant of Venice,” using a brand new mop head as my wig and a graduation robe for my judge’s gown!
I wish I knew her name: I had gone to visit my great-grandmother for the weekend. My aunt and uncle took me to their huge Baptist church for services where I was shown to a class of more than 50 junior high students. I was horribly homesick and intimidated by strangers and unfamiliar settings. Yet, after we were divided into smaller groups, my teacher welcomed me warmly and introduced me to the other girls. She then had us act out the story of Josiah and the Temple workers finding the Book of the Law in the Temple renovations. It was the first time I had ever seen drama used in Sunday. Why back in my church, we just listened to the story and filled out a worksheet! This was new! This was interesting! Moreover, she gave me one of the key roles, the workman who actually found the Book of the Law. I have never forgotten that Bible lesson. Being able to be involved in the lesson cemented that story into my brain and set the stage for my educational philosophy about the importance of interactive learning. I also learned the importance of including visitors. I never had the chance to go back to that church but, oh, I wish that lady knew the tremendous influence her teaching had on a one-time visitor.